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Posted by on Nov 26, 2012 in Uncategorized | 12 comments

America is a Continent AND a Country

With the growing Atheist movement around the world, it was only a matter of time until non-American Atheists got a voice in the English-speaking community, for example this blog.

Or guest-posts, like the one my friend Manolo Matos has over at Friendly Atheist on how the Atheist community can reach out to hispanics.

One of the points he made was this one:

Try not to use the term “America” to refer to the U.S. I know it’s widespread and most of the rest of the world uses the term, but most Hispanics find it offensive. We constantly see atheists from the United States using the term “America” to refer to the U.S. especially in conferences abroad, and many Hispanics consider it arrogant. America, to the rest of the people that live in the “New World,” means from up in Alaska, down to Patagonia in Chile/Argentina. Using the term America to refer to the U.S. will alienate most Hispanics and they will feel it as a rejection. Atheists are usually very specific with terminology and definitions, and being specific with this particular term can determine how welcoming Hispanic atheists will feel.

Well, I happen to disagree on this one, and I couldn’t help but noticing it has stirred the Atheists waters a little bit. Take for example the comments at Atheist Revolution, when Vjack  said he had been trying not to use “America” or “Americans” to refer to US or its citizens:

As long as I can remember, “America” has been used to refer only to the United States and “Americans” has been used to describe the people living in the U.S. This is how my family, friends, teachers, and acquaintances all talk. This is what I see, hear, and read from the news media and from my elected officials. This terminology is about as universally accepted and widely used as anything else I can think of. The degree to which it has been embedded in my consciousness cannot be overstated.

It is only recently, that it has been brought to my attention that “America” and “American” should not be used in this manner. During this time, I’ve made an effort to change how I write and how I speak. And yet, I continue to catch myself resorting back to the old terms more than I’d care to admit. Unlearning something this ingrained is really tough!

Well, despite the whole “America is a continent, not a country” meme with Facebook groups and the like, truth be told, America is a continent and a country.

Look, I’m Colombian and I live in America, the continent. But Colombia is just the name everyone calls this country. It’s actual name is Republic of Colombia, and we were once the United States of Colombia… and hadn’t that changed, we’d still be called Colombia and Colombians.

Because, the thing is, republics and united states are just forms of government, and ways of social and political organization countries choose to run themselves by.

Take Mexico for example – or should I say United Mexican States, it’s official name? Mexico is a great example, because it turns out its  capital city is Mexico City. And all of them, people from Mexico and people from Mexico City are refered to as Mexicans. And they don’t go all “Mexico is country, not a city”, because, well… it is both.

Same goes for America. And I don’t take offense when someone says it’s a country, because it is. Being United States is just the political organization by which that country chooses to divide and share power. That’s it.

As a matter of fact, what would be wrong is to refer to America as the US.

  • Stefano S.

    Hi! I’m european and when you say “America” I think of the continent, not the USA.

    I don’t think your point is valid for everyone, maybe only for those that live in America (continent), because over here the USA is called the САЩ (meaning USA), and not America. But when you say Mexico, everyone knows you’re talking about the country, not the capitol (which we call Mexico City, as it’s supposed to), because while Mexico is the name of the land area, United Mexican States is the name of the governmental body – huge difference.

    In fact, it is sometimes confusing to listen to US speeches as I have to constantly remind myself that they’re talking about their own country.

    • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Daosorios

      Ok, maybe I was too ethnocentric!! Thanks for sharing your point of view!

  • Peter

    What is the big deal? I’m Canadian and American has become so entrenched in our
    consciousness most, other than some rabid nationalists, give it a second thought. I know who I am, what country i live in and in what continent it is. Mind you, there are times when we use “god damn those Americans” but there are reason for that. Cool it, there are more important issues than arguing about semantics.

    • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Daosorios

      Agreed! Back to more importante issues tomorrow! Thanks :D

  • http://www.atheistrev.com/ vjack

    For whatever it might be worth, the intent of my post was not to tell anyone else how they should speak or write but just to explain that I was trying to do so and finding it challenging. What I’ve learned is that some people do find it troublesome when “America” is treated as if it refers only to the U.S. I understand why they would feel this way, and I’m trying to do a better job with it going forward. As you note, not everyone is bothered by this wording, and that’s fine too.

    • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Daosorios

      Ohh, yeah. I totally get the intent of your post. I just thought it was way too kind of you. We Latin Americans, sometimes, can be such crybabies. I think this is one of those cases!

  • Randy

    Actually, it’s two continents, but who’s counting… I’m Canadian and most others I’ve met refer to the US as, well, the US. Or USA. Rarely “oosa”, Planet-of-the-Apes-style. :)

    If the USA would like a name, perhaps it should choose one. Even the United States of Mexico (or United Mexican States) may be changing their name to reduce confusion with the USA.

    • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Daosorios

      I read somewhere Mexico was thinking of changing it’s name to just Mexico.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    The US and it’s citizens are commonly referred to as Americans. I agree that America should denote the whole continent but in English it just sounds absurd calling them Usians (or something similar).

    I have the same problem with what to call subjects (we’re not strictly speaking citizens) of the UK. Ukians sounds just as absurd as Usian yet the title British isn’t correct either as British just denotes someone living in the British Isles, not necessarily a UK subject.

    • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Daosorios

      I hadn’t thought of the UK, but that’s a good example though!

  • Copyleft

    It would be appreciated if those voicing objections would suggest an alternative term to use in referring to U.S. citizens.
    US-ians? Statesians? What’s the proposed replacement word?

    • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Daosorios

      I have tried once or twice “united-states american”.